A superb late goal from central midfielder Amr El-Sulaya spared runaway leaders Ahly their first Egyptian Premier League defeat of the season as they salvaged a 1-1 draw with a plucky Entag El-Harby side on Friday.
El-Sulaya's skidding volley with 13 minutes remaining ensured Ahly would not taste a rare defeat, although they laboured for much of the game as El-Entag appeared brave and lively.
Playing at their own stadium in Cairo, which is now shared by Ahly following a recent agreement, El-Entag took their opponents by surprise in the early stages and their adventurous approach resulted in a 28th-minute goal from forward Ahmed Afifi.
Ahly, who are firm favourites to win a fifth consecutive league title, remain on top of the table with 53 points, a staggering 18 ahead of Pyramids FC and perennial rivals Zamalek.
El-Entag, whose display belied their ranking in the table, are ninth with 24 points.
Ahly looked lethargic throughout, with the absence of suspended winger Mahmoud Kahraba and star Ramadan Sobhi, who snubbed their offer to sign him on a permanent basis after his loan deal expired, depriving them of the usual creativity in the final third.
They needed a goal-line clearance from central defender Mahmoud Metwalli to prevent El-Entag from taking an early lead before Ahly had a chance to open the scoring against the run of play, only for spot-kick specialist Ali Maaloul to blast his penalty over the bar following a handball.
El-Entag were rewarded for their efforts when Afifi broke clear behind a static backline to run onto a deft long pass and calmly stroke the ball past keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi. The referee initially signaled for offside, only to award the goal following a VAR review.
Ahly remained toothless after the break but were saved by a moment of brilliance from El-Sulaya, who was helped by some good work from substitute Aliou Badji.
The towering Senegalese striker rose above his marker in the area and headed the ball back to El-Sualaya on the edge of the box to drill a volley into the bottom corner following a slight deflection.
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